BR company moves closer to $2 billion project

MMR Group, of Baton Rouge, has moved a step closer to making a planned $2 billion New Mexico-Arizona transmission project a reality.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has issued the final Environmental Impact Study for the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project. MMR owns the majority stake in the $2 billion project, which consists of two 500-kilovolt transmission lines and multiple substations stretching more than 500 miles between central New Mexico and central Arizona.

The final Environmental Impact Statement is the last step in the federal permitting process before the bureau issues the written reasons for its decision on the project. The Bureau of Land Management is expected to do so in late summer. The project is expected to begin delivering power by 2017.

Once built, SunZia will have a transmission capacity of 3,000 megawatts. The project will enable power, mainly from new wind and solar energy projects in both states, to be delivered to customers and markets across the Southwest, including California. MMR is leading the permitting and development push through its Phoenix subsidiary, SouthWestern Power Group.

SunZia is one of seven transmission infrastructure projects the federal government is giving accelerated permitting. It is the first independent project of its size to receive a final Environmental Impact Study.

MMR, which specializes in electrical and instrumentation construction, began developing the project in 2006. The federal permitting process has taken nearly five years so far, according to Jonathan Bruser, MMR manager of development. The final environmental impact statement moves MMR closer to creating thousands of jobs and “unlocking the energy potential in Arizona and New Mexico.”

The other owners of SunZia are Salt River Project, an electric utility headquartered in Tempe, Ariz.; Tucson Electric Power, an electric utility headquartered in Tucson; Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association, an electric utility headquartered in Westminster, Colo.; and Shell Wind-Energy.